Spain’s cycling federation cleared three-time Tour de France champion Alberto Contador on Tuesday of knowingly using a banned substance in a dramatic U-turn in the case that means he can ride in this year’s race.
The 28-year-old’s future has hung in the balance since he announced last August he had tested positive for minute traces of the banned substance clenbuterol during last July’s Tour de France.
He has repeatedly denied knowingly taking any banned substances,blaming the result on a steak he says was contaminated with traces of the muscle-building drug.
“I’m relieved and obviously happy about this ruling. It has been some very stressful months for me,but throughout the case I have been totally available for all inquiries,” Contador said after the federation’s final ruling was announced.
“All the way through I have spoken in accordance with the truth,” he added in a statement distributed by his Saxo Bank team.
The decision marked an about-turn for the Spain’s cycling federation,whose competition committee last month had recommended a one-year ban for Contador,a ruling that would have stripped him of his 2010 Tour de France title.
Saxo Bank said Spain’s cycling federation decided to clear Contador based on the evidence in the case and the explanation provided by the rider about unknowingly consuming a banned substance.
The decision means Contador,who joined Saxo Bank from Astana shortly after his third Tour win,is free to compete for the first time for his new team.
He will ride in the Tour of Algarve which gets underway Wednesday in southern Portugal.
But the The International Cycling Union (UCI),the sport’s world governing body,and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) have a month to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS),based in Switzerland,which would have the final word.
The president of the Spanish cycling federation,Juan Carlos Castano,said he was confident that the decision would stand up even if there is an appeal.
“We believe that the decision which the competition committee has taken is in keeping with the rules so there will be no problem to defend it here,in Switzerland or anywhere,” he told reporters.